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  • To become psychologically flexible

  • is more than just addressing personality.

  • It's actually addressing the way we really relate to ourselves.

  • Flexibility is the ability to adjust your thoughts, actions and feelings

  • to the circumstances you find yourself in.

  • Situations change, and so it's important to be able

  • to adjust and behave in the most functional way to achieve your goals.

  • When you're born, your brain is not finished.

  • Infant brains are born under construction.

  • They're waiting for a set of wiring instructions

  • from the world.

  • If you expose your children to a lot of varying experiences

  • then you're basically wiring your child's brain

  • to function in a flexible way

  • and to learn new things when necessary.

  • If your child's experiences are very restricted

  • then your child will have less flexibility to adjust their actions

  • to the situations that they're in.

  • There's a really well-known

  • demonstration of flexibility

  • called the Stroop test.

  • A sequence of words, such as red, green, yellow, blue

  • but written in different colours.

  • When you present people with a whole list of these

  • you find that it takes people longer to name the colour of the ink

  • when the word is written in a colour that is different to the actual word.

  • The idea behind that

  • is in order to be able to name the colour

  • requires people to switch between

  • different pieces of information in their mind.

  • In simple terms,

  • what happens is that when they scan the word colour

  • the automatic processes of reading the word

  • interfere with the person's ability to state the colour out loud.

  • The more difficult people find this generally

  • the less cognitively flexible they are.

  • When your brain can't predict something,

  • or when you have to take in new information that you didn't predict,

  • that's what we call learning.

  • So your brain can update, it can learn,

  • or your brain can ignore the sense data

  • and just go with its own prediction.

  • Flexibility means tailoring a response to the specific situation,

  • either by predicting well

  • or by learning when there is prediction error.

  • A lot of what psychological flexibility is about

  • is the way in which people use resources that they have available

  • in dealing with stress.

  • One of the things about psychological inflexibility

  • is that people are not using their resources

  • in a way that's helpful to them.

  • Quite often they're using a very narrow range of their resources

  • to be able to adapt.

  • And the idea

  • in psychological flexibility

  • is really to move people

  • from a state of what psychologists call languishing,

  • of being stuck in a less than satisfactory situation,

  • to move them out of that zone

  • into a zone of achieving more of their potential.

  • What stops people from changing their lives

  • from a state of low satisfaction to one of higher satisfaction

  • is quite often to do with inflexibility

  • in the way they approach the problem that they're facing.

  • So there's a really deep lesson here.

  • You can take more control

  • over your environment.

  • You are not just a passive recipient of whatever the world gives you.

  • Spending time cultivating experiences

  • and foraging for new information

  • is an investment in maintaining a flexible brain.

  • These are all opportunities to expose yourself to prediction error

  • so that your brain can solve problems more flexibly in the future.

  • So exposing yourself to stuff you don't know,

  • and maybe even ideas you don't like,

  • might make you feel crappy in the moment

  • but actually

  • it is a really good investment.

To become psychologically flexible

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The benefits of flexible thinking | BBC Ideas

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    Summer posted on 2021/03/11
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